When we spend more time emotionally care-taking or focusing on another able-bodied adult than ourselves, trying to control their behavior, the consequences of their choices, or how they perceive us, we have become codependent. When we take responsibility, blame, or make excuses for their harmful or hurtful behavior, we have become codependent. When we rely on others for our sense of identity, approval, or validation, we have become codependent. If we are focused on someone’s life, goals, and problems instead of our own, we have become codependent. If their needs come first, and ours don’t matter, we have become codependent.
Codependency is a harmful style of coping within stressful or unhealthy, traumatic, or abusive environments. It is a self-protective response to addiction, mental illness, immaturity, irresponsibility, under-achievement, and other relationship stressors. Codependent relationships result from trauma bonds, living with abuse or mistreatment, and from taking responsibility, accepting blame, or making excuses for another person’s harmful or hurtful behavior.
Codependency is a form of self-abandonment. Instead of focusing on our lives and goals, we codependents focus on others and look for validation and approval from them. Others’ needs come first, and ours come last, if at all. Living like this can cause us to become depressed, and anxious. And because of our self-abandonment, we also doubt ourselves, have low self-esteem, low energy, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness, defeat, and low self-worth. When we have low self-worth, it’s natural to feel like we’re not good enough to ask for what we want or need. Instead, we get our needs met by trying to control people and consequences, and we might discover that we feel worthy or good enough when we accept responsibilities that aren’t ours. And in order for us to feel emotionally or physically safe, it feels natural and necessary for us to control as much of our environment as possible.